Thursday, February 26, 2009

Project II: Nearing Completion

We're almost finished! Most of the decluttering is done and most of the work was actually done by my daughter. I was so surprised at some of the things she put in the give away pile. Then on Sunday, we moved the furniture around to make room for a desk and night stand. We will be shopping for those this weekend.

My daughter has been so excited about her room that all week she has put her dirty clothes in the laundry and made her bed (not exactly hospital corners and she likes to put the comforter crosswise, but I'll take it)! She's been spending lots more time in it, reading, playing and dancing. Her enthusiasm is a direct result of her having done so much of the work and decision making herself. Yes, I was there and supported her and helped her clean up, but she felt like it was her project. Did it take a long time? Yes. Was it occasionally frustrating and painful? Yes. Was I often tempted to do it for her quickly while she was at school? For sure. But, this payoff has definitely been worth the patience, and she's so proud of her accomplishment.

Once the desk and nightstand are added, we'll decide where to hang up the jewelry board and we're done. I think I'm pretty on track so far with one big project a month.

This is corner where we'll put the desk.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sucked in by Martha Stewart Again

That Martha, she's got some great looking projects. And she makes it look so easy. But, when I try to actually do one, I often find myself on a wild goose chase for some obscure craft product or spending more money on it than it would take to just buy the thing. Around Christmas time, I thought I'd make this cute snowman card for my godson. Alas, it was impossible to find white honeycomb paper anywhere. Not in craft stores, not on the web. I could only find yellow honeycomb paper, and no one wants to receive a yellow snowman.

I was going to make the jewelry board I saw on Real Simple for my daughter's room, which is very similar to a bulletin board I saw on our dear Martha's site. Both use Homasote as a base. Now, I don't need anything too big, and the projects shown were a reasonable size. However, Homasote is mostly used in construction to make walls, and I could only find it at Home Depot in one gigantic, whole wall size piece. On both Martha's and Real Simple's videos, the Homasote is already cut down. They don't show Martha wrestling with a wall size piece of Homasote, and I wasn't about to either. (FYI, it costs about $24.00.)

I decided a regular bulletin board would work just as well. I found a cute flower shaped one in pink, orange and yellow at our local Container Store on sale for $9.99 and the push pins were $4.99 for 100. I think it will do the trick for my daughter's jewelry and look cute, too.

So, I'm not going to get sucked in again. I'm going for the easy and obvious solution from now on, because I don't have Martha's minions or her sources. I did however, make her Roast Pork Loin recipe tonight and it was delicious.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Project II: So Proud of My Girl!

We were slowly chipping away at the books in my daughter's room, each discard an agonizing decision for her, when her school had a book sale and she came home with six books. And then, an author visited and she got another book. We discussed (for what seemed to me like the millionth time) how there's only so much space, and to make room for new books she had to give up some of her old books. Suddenly today, it was like the light went on. She went up to her room, sat in front of her book shelves, and within about an hour, she filled up four shopping bags with books. As she brought them out she said to me, "These are all books that are too young for me or that I've never really been interested in reading. Some I've had since I was born! Now I can put my new books on my shelf and there's even room for more." By George I think she's got it!

I have to admit there were a few in the pile that were a little sentimental to me, but there was no way I was going to discourage her in any way. So, I put them all in the shopping bags and tomorrow we will take them over to the library to donate to the book sale. She loves our local library and its annual book sale, so it'll be great for her to help out in a direct way.

Here's hoping (but not assuming) that she can apply the same lesson to the toys.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Small Bite of Clutter I

My goal for this year has been to take on one room at a time, one project at a time and really focus my energy on getting that room together. But since I'm working together with my daughter on her room, and she is in school most of the day, yesterday I decided to take on a small project that's been bothering me in my dining room.

I have a lovely little cupboard that overflowed with stationary and cards and had other miscellaneous junk on top. Sort, sort, sort, out went cards with no matching envelopes, boxes of stationary went into the give away pile (who needs that much paper when most correspondence is done by email?). I kept a selection of greeting cards, a box of thank you notes and a some blank cards for teacher and miscellaneous notes. Greeting cards went into an acordian file. I also decided that the stationary didn't belong in the dining room and to use the cupboard for things that actually get used in the dining room.

With all the paper significantly pared down, I could put it closer to where I use it... in another cupboard that needs to be sorted out. Funny how that works. But, I resisted the urge to immediately start sorting out that one, and went back to my original project. I put trivets, candlesticks, candles and the trivia games we play at dinner in the dining room cupboard. Much more logical and it looks so much better.



Total time: 1 hour
Total cost: $0.00

Now it's Saturday, the kids have this week off for February vacation, so it's back to focusing on my daughter's room.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Project II: Jewelry and Hair Do-Dads

I just love to watch those TV shows where they organize and re-decorate a whole house in a weekend. It's total fantasy - houseporn, if you will. And I have rationally set my goal as one year to get our house working efficiently for us. But still, a girl can dream, right?

Okay, I was not realistic about what we were going to get done this weekend. It turned out to be a much busier weekend than I expected, but I did learn how to pleat Chinese dumplings from the most adorable Chinese grandmother. She can do it in one motion, I'll need to do about a thousand more to get to that level, but I definitely improved and I don't need that little plastic dumpling maker anymore. Ha! another thing to purge.

We did manage to sort through all of my daughter's hair do-dads and jewelry. She had everything in an assortment of little jewelry boxes, one bigger jewelry box, and some little clear plastic totes. All those pony tail holders, barrettes, head bands, and scrunchies are now neatly stowed on the back of her closet door in a clear plastic jewelry holder. It is not quite as efficient as I would have liked, but it's working pretty well.

As for the jewelry, all the necklaces got terribly tangled in the jewelry boxes. After untangling everything and laying it all out, I did a little web surfing and found this great idea at Real Simple, Real Life. Using a fabric covered bulletin board, we can hang it all up. It's easy to see, easy to use and saves space on the flat surfaces and in the drawers. We'll cover the board with some fabric from my fabric stash (um, yeah, I'll be talking about that little problem in another project). Hey, a little project we can do together, that uses up some fabric and will make my little miss's life a little neater!

We made significant progress and celebrated Chinese New Year. I call that a successful weekend.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Project II: Slow Progress Being Made

My daughter and I are very s..l..o..w..l..y decluttering her room. We got rid of a bag of books, some old dress-up costumes, a few more bits and bobs. It is very hard for her, but I keep painting the picture of a nice room with desk and a little reading nook, and she's beginning to come around more. I've told her as soon as we get her room decluttered and cleaned up, we will shop for a desk.

The Animal Bag came and we fit almost all her stuffed animals in there. In fact, though I hate to admit it, she could probably fit more in there. The only ones that didn't go in were a few musical ones that were hard and a unicorn that had a plastic horn, not a good thing to sit on. And, she absolutely loves it! The zippers and netting seem very sturdy, so I'm think it will hold up well.

Her school this week had a book sale fund raiser for a sister school in Uganda, and she came home with six more books. This was a good time to have the "if you want to bring home new books, you have to get rid of some old books" discussion, though I was proud that she donated an extra dollar to the cause. We're still working on the less stuff concept.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Project II: The Stuffed Animal Problem

Cleaning up my daughter's clothing was easy. There wasn't a lot of sentiment involved, it either fit or it didn't, was winter or summer. Sorting through the rest of the content's of her room is proving much more difficult. Take stuffed animals. As I was hanging clothes up in her closet, I asked her to go through her stuffed animals and give away those that maybe someone else would love a little more. Like Paddington Bear. Paddington is not cuddly, he's rather big and very stiff and she was never that enthralled by the stories, nor had I ever seen her really play with him. So I mentioned that maybe Paddington could find a new home. When I turned around from the closet to look at her, there she was, holding on to poor Paddington for dear life, her big eyes filling with tears. "But I love all my animals, Mommy." Yeah, I'm a push over, though we did manage to toss the falling apart buffalo, and he was large.

As a parent, I've learned to pick my battles, and before pushing her further, I decided to surf the web for some stuffed animal storage/display ideas. I found three possibilities.

A toy hammock that you hang above the floor:
Pros: inexpensive, easy to just throw everything in there.
Cons: Not sure where I'd hang it in the room (sloping ceilings), and it's not that attractive.

The Zoo:
Pros: Seems to hold a lot, and yet keep them accessible.
Cons: Expensive and not that attractive, more of a jail than a zoo. Plus, I don't really want another piece of awkward furniture in the room.

There is a make yourself version for those with more ambition than me.

And The Animal Bag:

Pros: My daughter wants a cozy reading nook with a bean bag chair, could we could kill two birds with one stone?
Cons: Expensive, but I managed to find it on sale for $49.95 and free shipping.

My daughter really liked the animal bag idea, so I've ordered it. The deal is she cannot have more stuffed animals than can fit in there, except for her big teddy bear and penguin and, of course, Paddington. Fingers crossed it works out.

On to the next big space eater, books.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This happens to me all the time. I spend hours searching the stores and online, can't find that perfect answer to my problem, find a compromise, get the project finished and then find the solution I had been looking for in the first place. Well, don't you know Ikea, those Swedish design geniuses and makers of fine meatballs, actually make a storage system that can be used with sloping ceilings like my closet. Check out the Broder line. It's a bit heavy duty, designed more for attic than master closet, but it would have made life a little easier. And it's pretty reasonably priced, too.

Frustrating as it is to have come across that solution now, the closet is working out beautifully and I'm quite happy with it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Project II: My Daughter's Bedroom

Every time I look into my 10 year old daughter's bedroom, I'm overcome with guilt. How did I let it get this bad, and how can I have allowed it to remain this way for so long? Though I tell her to "clean up her room", I know very well that she's not equipped to deal with this mess alone. Her room is small and she has lots of stuff. The space is not used efficiently, and we cannot expect this room to be all things for her. And this is also a project we have to do together. I cannot and should not sort and purge her things without her, and I want us to come up with a plan for her room together.

Sometimes when a task looks so overwhelming, it's best to start with the low hanging fruit, something easy that will give an immediate result and give you hope that it's not an impossible task. So, we decided to go through and organize all her clothes and fix her bed up. After about an hour of serious effort, we had a big pile of clothes outside the door to give away, the drawers of her chest organized and shut, and clean flannel sheets and comforter cover on the bed. There's still lots to do, but I can actually walk to her bed and tuck her in without stepping on anything.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Project I Complete!

Closet accomplished!

I can hardly believe how much more space I got out of this project. Not only did I get all my winter and summer hanging clothes in, but ALL my clothes except one shelf in the armoire of heavy sweaters. Plus, it's not crowded and should I choose to buy a dress or two, there is still room to hang them. That leaves a big plastic box on wheels, a chest of drawers and a lingerie chest empty and ready for use in another room. And, our bedroom, when I get to that project, will be less crowded with furniture.

If you look at my original closet picture you might notice that a few items did not make it back into the closet: the vacuum cleaner, old Christmas wrapping paper, the pink corduroys and the white wire drawers. The vacuum cleaner and the drawers have found a new and better place in the house, and the wrapping paper and cords are gone.

This project took me about ten hours stretched over two weeks. That does not include web surfing and reading books for ideas on what to do with the space or how to do it. But it does include sorting through all the stuff, shopping, hanging the rods and shelves, putting together the cubbies and the Container Store/Elfa wild goose chase.

The total cost which included hardware, a stud finder, a large measuring stick with a level, and the Ikea shelving unit was $178.98. That's not bad considering the Container Store quoted me $388.13 for their impractical design.

Now my only question is why didn't I do this years ago?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Phase II of Project I Complete!

Here is a rule of life: no matter how well researched and reasoned your expectations, any project will take longer, be more complicated, and usually cost more than anticipated. Always add at least 10% to your worst time and budget scenario.

Phase II of my closet project was hanging shelves. I expected to have it done yesterday, but I spent most of my available time at Lowe's trying to decide how exactly I was going to hang the long shelf in the back of the closet and what kind of shelving to use. I really couldn't make a final decision because there were too many possibilities that all seemed a bit beyond my abilities or didn't quite fit my closet. Big box stores overwhelm me with their cavernous aisles, but even though they have lots of stuff, it's almost impossible to find that one exactly right thing.

So, today I consulted with The Oracles. We have a little hardware store in town that is manned by a number of older New England gentlemen who seem to have seen it all. I call them The Oracles. Describe what you are trying to do and they will hem and haw for a bit, walk around the store, ask a few questions (which I usually can't answer, like drywall or plaster), and then come up with a way to do what you want to do, put together all the stuff you need, and give you advice on how to do it properly (like what size hole to drill). It may not be the most aesthetically pleasing solution, but it will be practical. They will also give you the name of a good carpenter. I came out with a small brown paper bag and a plan of action.

Executing the plan of action did not go quite as smoothly as anticipated and I nearly gave up and called the carpenter. But, I decided to break for lunch. The movie 300 happened to be on while I was eating and after watching the determined but doomed Spartans for half an hour, I had to give it another go, for Sparta! And I finally got that darn shelf up! And it hasn't fallen down yet! And no body parts were hacked off, either.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Phase I of the closet project completed!

No one describes me as "handy". I have only ever used a drill once, and that was to open a coconut. So it's with great pride and amazement that I announce the completion of Phase I of the closet project.

I hung two closet rods, no one was injured, I do not seem to have permanently damaged the house, nor done something that will cost thousands to repair, and they are working beautifully.
I can't believe how much more I can fit in now. And it was pretty easy. The hardest part was finding the studs. Those stud finders are a little tricky, but it seems to be holding up. Guess I'll find out soon enough.

Phase II is a shoe rack and hanging some shelves.

Hey, just call me Rosie.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The First Road Block

I had planned to take trip to the Container Store today to consult with the Elfa closet organizing wizard, but it was snowing, sleeting, icing and generally not fit for man nor beast to venture outside. There was a two hour school delay, but the kids did eventually go. Not to be thwarted by the weather, I decided to try the online closet design option.

I dutifully entered all the information I had gathered into the online form, and then called the number listed for the consultation. A very nice lady named Carol looked over the information, clarified what I wanted and told me she would email the design to me later in the day. Fantastic!

True to her word, a few hours later I received an email stating the design was done. Here is the design she came up with:

You might notice that there is only a hanging rod for short clothes, and nothing for say, dresses. I'm not a big dress up girl, but I do have a few and have been known to wear one on occaision. There was nothing in the plan for shoes, either. This design was not going to work for me. Not ready to give in to my growing disappointment, I called up to discuss and got a very nice man with a southern accent, who after a few rounds, said there wasn't really any way to accommodate long hanging clothes in this closet.

So, like Dorothy who went to the Wizard and found not much help, I'm just going to have to go figure it out for myself.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Organization Project 1: The Closet

Oh Container Store/Elfa sale catalog, you taunt me with your perfect and beautifully color- coordinated closets. I only have to fill out the form in the back and with your magic computer, you will transform my closet into so harmonious a space that it will be a zen experience just to open the door. And at 30% off, too. Well, I'll give your magic computer a whirl, though even at 30% off the Elfa elves (surely the come with elves and not just shelves?) may be beyond my resources.

I'm starting with my closet, which currently looks like this:

This is not the biggest project I have in terms of stuff, because as you may notice, I'm not exactly a fashionista. However, it may be the most challenging in terms of using the space most efficiently. The closet is under the eaves, so it's deep, but the sloping ceiling makes it a challenge to use the space in the back, except for storing summer clothes and wrapping paper. And I'd like to empty out my chest of drawers and be able to put all my sweaters in the closet, too.

So, I went through everything in the closet, tossing, purging, decluttering, detoxing, and in about an hour I had an empty closet, a 30 gallon trash bag of clothes for Goodwill, and my husband's side of the bed covered in clothes. Fortunately, he's on a business trip this week, which is motivation to get this done before he gets back.

And now the closet looks like this:

During this process, I came to discover that I have some seriously ugly clothes and shoes. What have I been thinking? But, that's another project.

I measured the space, I hung up the short clothes and measured their width, hung up the long clothes and measured, filled out how many socks, bags, belts, sweaters, t-shirts and everything else. Tomorrow its time to take all the info to the great closet wizard and see what they can do for me. I just hope they don't tell me to hang all my clothes in the front and store all my out of season clothes in the back.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Twelfth Night

It's Twelfth Night, the last night of the Christmas season. Traditionally, it's time to take down all the Christmas decorations, and some believe it's bad luck to keep them up past Epiphany, January 6. I find the threat of bad luck motivates me to get everything put away, the tree out of the house and the wreaths off the doors. Not that I really believe it, but why take a chance? Otherwise, ours would probably be one of those sad houses with browning Christmas greenery hanging limply on the windows and doors on Valentines day.

Anyway, it's all down, put away, or in a pile to go to the brush dump tomorrow. And I'm ready to tackle the first big project, my closet.

"Get Yourselves Organized Down There!"

This is it. This is the year I finally whip this house into shape. No more excuses, I'm rolling up my sleeves and diving in.

I've made this resolution more years in a row than I'd like to admit. Maybe you have, too. But, it's time to try again, and this time I'm recording the journey. I'll be posting pictures of the before, and hopefully, the after, reading and reviewing books, and having some fun along the way.

I love Wallace and Gromit and the title quote comes from the sheep rescue scene in A Close Shave.

And, "Get yourselves organized down there."